Some women crave hot dogs during pregnancy but may be concerned about whether it is safe to consume them. Since the food you consume during pregnancy can directly impact the fetus’ health, informed decisions should be made.
A hot dog, also known as a frankfurter or wiener, is a popular barbecued food consisting of a steamed or grilled sausage placed in a slit bun with different sauces, cheese, and sometimes, vegetables.
Since processed meats such as sausage are high in sodium, it may adversely affect the baby’s health. Besides, if sausage is undercooked, it can expose you and your baby to harmful pathogens that can cause foodborne infections.
Keep reading to learn more about whether it is safe to consume hot dogs while pregnant, their potential side effects, and healthy alternatives.
Ingredients In A Hot Dog
Hot dogs are grilled or steamed snacks that have a cooked sausage between a partly sliced bun. The common ingredients in a hot dog include (1):
- Bun or bread
- Processed meat (chicken, beef, turkey or pork)
- Flavorings including salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika
- Garnishes such as tomato sauce, mustard sauce, cheese, mayonnaise, coleslaw, and caramelized onions
- Preservatives such as sodium nitrite or sodium erythorbate
None of the above ingredients will harm the fetus as long as they are properly cooked in hygienic standards.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Hot Dogs?
Hot dogs are safe to eat if properly cooked and eaten occasionally. Also, see if they contain any ingredient to which you are allergic. Read the labels carefully. Also, cooking above a temperature of 165°F is essential to kill harmful bacteria that could harbor meat and dairy products.
Hot dogs that are undercooked or have deli-style meats, soft cheeses and milk products made of unpasteurized milk are unsafe for consumption as they harbor listeria bacteria (2). Also, avoid excessive consumption due to its high sodium content.
What Are The Risks Of Eating Hot Dogs During Pregnancy?
The problem with precooked foods such as hot dogs is that you can never know if they are adequately cooked. This can give rise to many risks, ranging from bacterial contamination to preservative use.
1. Bacterial contamination:
Some bacteria such as the Listeria monocytogenes are found in deli meats, cured meats, and soft cheeses. The bacteria is responsible for causing gastrointestinal issues and flu-like symptoms, which you will be more prone to during pregnancy. This could increase the risk of premature delivery, miscarriage, and stillbirth (3).
2. Sodium nitrate complications:
Food preservatives used to extend the shelf-life and enhance the color of the hot dogs contain sodium nitrates and sodium nitrites, which increase the risks of pancreatic cancers and blood vessel damage (4). Sodium also increases the risk of high blood pressure and cardiac diseases (5).
3. Sensitivity to ingredients:
Some pregnant women might show sensitivity to certain ingredients in hot dogs, such as spices and cheese. The food sensitivities will lead to allergic reactions resulting in flatulence and bloating (6).
It is okay to eat a hot dog occasionally, but not too often. If you have doubts, avoid eating them until after your delivery. Otherwise, follow these precautions to stay safe.
Precautions To Consider While Eating Hot dogs During Pregnancy
Here are a few things to remember before you eat a hot dog during pregnancy.
- One regular, six-inch hot dog bun alone is known to contain almost 140 calories, 2.5g of fat, 28g carbohydrates, 4g of protein and less than 270mg sodium (7). The excess calories along with little nutrition could result in unhealthy weight gain.
- Do not eat hot dogs until they have been cooked to 165°F or unless they are served hot (8).
- Bread and bun contain carbohydrates thus increasing the sugar levels, and aggravating gestational diabetes problems.
- Avoid eating hot dogs on the streets or stores that are unhygienic. They are known to carry the risk of contamination.
- Wash the work surfaces with mild soap and warm water before preparation.
- Also, wash your hands before handling hot dogs and other meats before preparing them.
- Keep the refrigerator clean and set the temperature at 40°F or below (or frozen at 0°F or below) to prevent food contamination (9).
What Are The Alternatives To Hot Dogs?
To avoid the risks associated with bacteria and sodium nitrites that are present in hot dogs, you should consider switching to healthy alternatives.
Meat-free hot dogs made of soy, vegetables and grain substitutes are good options. They are vegetarian-friendly, low in fat and hold the least risk of bacterial infestation.
Next, we answer a few commonly asked questions about eating hot dogs during pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is it safe to eat microwaved hot dogs while pregnant?
Yes, it is safe to eat microwaved hot dogs, provided you cook or reheat them at a temperature of 165°F (9).
2. How to properly cook hot dogs to avoid listeria during pregnancy?
Cook hot dogs at a high temperature (above 160 degrees Fahrenheit) to eliminate Listeria monocytogenes or any other bacteria. If not appropriately heated, the bacteria will continue to thrive. Whether you are grilling, boiling or microwaving, ensure that the hot dog is steaming hot. Do not allow the hot dogs to become cold as that increases the risk of further contamination.
You should be careful when eating hot dogs because they contain processed meat, cheese, and other spices that may increase your risk of foodborne infections and allergies. If you occasionally include hot dogs in your pregnancy diet, make sure they are cooked properly. Consumption of undercooked hot dogs may cause bacterial infections, ingredient sensitivity, and other complications that may risk your baby’s well-being. Therefore, in any case, avoid eating hot dogs from streets and stores as you may not be sure of the ingredients. If you experience discomfort after eating them, you should see your doctor immediately.
Infographic: Ideas To Make Hot Dogs Healthier For The Mom-To-Be
Eating healthy doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on your favorite food. If you crave a hot dog during pregnancy, make one at home with healthy ingredients. Not sure how to do it? Our infographic offers all the tips you need to make healthy hot dogs at home.
2. Food Safety for Pregnant Women; FoodSafety.gov (2018)
3. Jane Hart & Danielle High; Listeria exposure during pregnancy can cause problems; Michigan State University (2017)
4. WHO report says eating processed meat is carcinogenic: Understanding the findings; The Nutrition Source; Harvard Chan
5. Allergies and Food Safety; USDA (2011)
6. PREGNANCY & BREASTFEEDING; Home and Garden Information Center; Clemson University (2019)
7. J. Dean & P. Kendall; Food Safety During Pregnancy; Colorado State University (2012)
8. Hot Dogs and Food Safety; USDA (2010)
9. Cooking Safely in the Microwave Oven; USDA (2013)
10. Lettuce, Other Leafy Greens, and Food Safety; CDC